Food for Thought on America’s Obesity Problem


Food is one of God’s greatest gifts, but like all of His gifts, it can be abused.

A recent report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a new study showing a 130% increase in the number of “severely obese” Americans. The LA Times (May 8, 2012) reports this is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above.

Meanwhile, the Centers also report that if the present trends continue to 2030, we will see an increase from 34% to 42% of Americans who are obese (as defined by a BMI of 30 or more).

America seems to be losing the battle of the bulge.

I know that God is sovereign and He determines our days. But I also know that He who ordains the ends ordains the means. The research that is out there about the deleterious effects of being overweight is so abundant. We don’t need more studies, more research. We just need more discipline.

Some people have medical issues or glandular problems that result in obesity. I have sympathy for them. But this is relatively rare. Most people who are overweight are overweight because of their behavior. It’s pure mathematics for most of us---input vs. output.

In my personal struggle with keeping the fat off, I have appreciated what Chuck Swindoll says about accomplishments in general: three steps forward, two steps backwards.

If you’re overweight, please don’t take offense at any of this. It wasn’t until a close friend began calling me to account for tipping the scales that I began to take action. He has probably added years to my life, and certainly more quality to my life.

My friend encouraged me to start running and competing in races (primarily against myself, by striving to do faster next time) as a means of losing weight. He said, “It sure beats the doctor’s bills.” When I started, I used to joke all the time, “I’m in shape---round is a shape.” But I have been able to lose many pounds and keep them off. After a while, the joke rang hollow. However, it is an on-going struggle. It is not easy.

I know many Christians who are disciplined in many ways, but they have let themselves go as far as being overweight. I discussed this once with a friend---about all the fat we find in the body of Christ. He said, “What other sin is left?” We can’t smoke or do other things. But we can eat. And do we ever. We often build many functions around food.

The results do not go unnoticed. One time, when my son was little, we went to a Christmas singing-presentation at a church. He turned to me and asked, “Dad, why are all those ladies so fat?” Out of the mouths of babes.

Even the outside world takes note. One of the popular recent atheist books, Letter to a Christian Nation, author Sam Harris says that Christians are fat. There’s much in the book with which I disagree, but it is hard to argue that point.

Of all people, Christians should be excellent examples in this area. In the ancient church, gluttony was viewed as one of the seven deadly sins. In its own way, it is still deadly, and not only to the body. In modern church circles, it seems that many don’t care about the issue. We just let ourselves go---and go and go and go. We need to remember that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

Those of us who take our hope and comfort from the Lord should take a hard look at how we use food. One thing I had to stop doing is using food as a means of therapy---as a pick me up, when dealing with life’s difficulties. In short, avoid “comfort foods.”

I like the way overweight comedian Allan Sherman once put it: “Fare thee well, Metrecal,* / And the others of that ilk. / Let the diet start tomorrow, / 'Cause today I'll drown my sorrow / In a double malted milk.”

When you eat to feel better, you get fatter. And you feel worse because of your girth. So you eat more to soothe your bad feelings, and the vicious cycle repeats. Some people feel discouraged because they have worked hard at losing weight, and their lack of results has discouraged them to the point of giving up.

Ironically, the people who gain the least weight usually eat often, literally throughout the day. They just eat smart and in smaller portions. And they exercise regularly.

If we Americans are ever going to control our obesity problem, we need to get our eating habits in check and increase our exercise. The great thing about more discipline in this area is that it tends to spill over into other aspects of your life---giving you more energy. Thomas Jefferson said (August 19, 1785): “Give about two [hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong.” That’s often true for the spirit as well.

So which is the best exercise for you? The one you actually do.

*brand of diet foods in the 1960s

About Jerry Newcombe

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the spokesperson and co-host of the television programs Kennedy Classics (featuring Dr. D. James Kennedy) and Truth That Transforms with Dr. Michael Milton. He has also written or co-written more than 20 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation, and the bestselling George Washington's Sacred Fire (with Dr. Peter Lillback)
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